C-section use almost doubles worldwide since 2000, study finds

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However, researchers calculated that, while in 2000 some 12 percent of births were performed using a C-section, the percentage had risen to 21 by 2015.

The study has already prompted responses from countries, with the Minister of Health of Brazil Gilberto Magalhães Occhi releasing a new country-wide strategy alongside the study to try and reduce the use of C-sections and ensure quality maternal health care.

C-sections can lead higher risks for future births, including scarring of the womb, uterine rupture, abnormal placentation, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, and preterm birth.

"We call on healthcare professionals, hospitals, funders, women and families to only intervene in this way when it is medically required", said Marleen Temmerman, an expert from Aga Khan University in Kenya and Ghent University in Belgium who co-led the research.

In the 10 countries with the highest number of births in 2010-2015, there were large differences in caesarean section OR C-section use between regions - for example, differences between provinces in China ranged from 4 per cent to 62 per cent, and inter-state differences in India ranged from 7 per cent to 49 per cent, they said. In 2015, 44.3% of live births in Latin America and the Caribbean were completed by C-section, up from 32.3% in 2000, followed by 32% in North America, up from 24.3%.

The results also highlight a huge gap in childbirth care between rich and poor mothers, with the life-saving surgery unavailable to many women in poor countries and over-used in richer ones.

Evidently, between the year 2000 and 2015, the rate of c-section births increased from 12 percent to 21 percent, with those in richer countries overusing it and those in poorer countries continue to have little access to a possibly life-saving procedure.

Nearly 30 million C-sections were performed globally in 2015, accounting for 21% of all live births, according to World Health Organization and UNICEF data published Thursday in the Lancet.

It is estimated that the operation - a vital surgical procedure when complications occur during birth - is necessary 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the time. However, improvements have been slow across sub-Saharan Africa (around 2% per year), where C-section use has remained low (increasing from 3% to 4.1% of births in West and Central Africa, and from 4.6% to 6.2% in Eastern and Southern Africa).

"In cases where complications do occur, C-sections save lives, and we must increase accessibility in poorer regions, making C-sections universally available, but we should not overuse them".

"C-section is a type of major surgery, which carries risks that require careful consideration", says Jane Sandall, an expert on maternal health at King's College London. The majority of these procedures were found to be performed for low-risk deliveries and for women who had previously had C-sections (which can make a subsequent vaginal delivery dangerous).

"In some cases the trend is system-driven".

As such, the researchers note how important it is for women to understand the serious risks of getting c-sections and why it is important to opt for it only when necessary.

The guidelines say that health education for women is a crucial step in reducing caesarean section births, recommending childbirth training workshops and relaxation training programs to help women conquer their fears of natural childbirth.